<VV> Electrical Fire (long)

Ewell Mills emills5@cfl.rr.com
Mon, 9 Aug 2004 06:45:51 -0400

I have a 67 Monza coupe that I bought off E-Bay a little over a year ago out
of Arizona.  The P.O. had installed a factory type A/C with the 66 type
condenser with two puller fans on it. To power the fans he ran a #10 wire
directly from the small junction box (don't remember correct name for it, on
the frame by the battery) through the tunnel to a switch he had mounted under
the dash to control the fans. Instead of running the wiring up through the
center of the tunnel as the general did (the red #10 wire that feeds the front
of the car (fuse block etc) he took a short cut and brought this wire (and the
return wire from the switch to the fans) up and to the left of the steering
column.  Although I have since removed the 66 type condenser and fans (another
story) I left the wiring in the car.  In doing various things under the dash
(mounting relays for the A/C switches etc. I suppose I inadvertently moved
these wires into a very bad place.  When I took my car out Friday for a test
spin, I returned it to my shop, applied the parking brake, turned off the
ignition switch and exited the car.  Within a matter of seconds the car filled
with really thick smoke that was boiling out from under the dash, under the
car, and out of the engine compartment. I also saw that I had the beginning of
a small glowing fire under the dash.  I immediately panicked and started
hunting a 1/2 inch wrench to disconnect the battery terminal.  Every tool in
my tool chest immediately turned into something other than 1/2 inch.  I then
remembered that my battery (Optima) also had wing nuts on it. While choking on
the smoke I managed to get the battery disconnected.  I then turned on every
fan in my shop to try and clear the smoke.  It was then that I noticed that I
had flames under the dash.  Again in panic mode, the only fire extinguisher
that I could immediately find was one of the white powder type which I used to
extinguish the fire. (Boy what a mess)  Anyway, what had happened was that the
#10 hot lead (unswitched and unfused) caught up in the parking brake pulley
and cable causing a very good ground. Of course this wire (and others) was
melted along with the parking brake pulley (which is what was burning under
the dash).  Luckily this wire totally fried (and some next to it) all the way
from the front to the back, but never flamed up.

Moral of the story.  Never run unfused power anywhere in a Corvair.  The
general did it, but he was a lot more careful than this P.O.  I am gradually
getting things back to normal, but will take awhile.  Also follow a safe path
away from parking brake cables, pulleys etc. for the installed wiring.

Would have been nice if the general had put some type of circuit breaker where
the little round terminal block resides and furnishes unfused power to the
car.  Has anyone done this successfully.  If so I would certainly be
interested in hearing how and what you used.  Be safe.

Cecil Mills
Cocoa, Fl.